Taking trains in India

Hi everyone

One of the things that we foreigners are being avoided against is to take trains in India. And I think that local train in Mumbai is something that is especially not recommended. Having said so, I think it is very important to distinguish between different trains. Last year I was taking the Bhopal Shatabdi Express from Delhi to Agra and that was just a pleasure! Nice seats, good treatment and quite comfortable.

Local trains in Mumbai however are quite different I must admit. It is crowded and most of the times you even have to stand. But I have now done it quite some times, and I don’t feel it that bad. Saying so, I must admit that I have never done it at the most peak hour, and yes, I can really believe that it will be even more crowded during that time. So how is it to take the train in Mumbai? Well, first you have to get into a queue just to get a ticket. But I have found that most people actually are quite respectful in this queue and not many people are sneaking. Actually, I got some blaming once for doing that! After having been in the queue for some time, I have now realized that it is possible to get some coupons, which really make life easier! Then you can just stamp this on your own and get into the train! Extremely convenient.

When you are entering the train, there will always be some pushing and shoveling. I have kind of got adjusted to it, and just let the crowd push me into the train. When you are well into the train, you have to try to get the best place. Quite often, I’m travelling all the way to the end station. So what I do is to squeeze into some small place close to the wall. This way, I avoid the people who are shoveling around at every station to get on or off. The good thing with Indian trains is that most people are kind of helpful. If you are travelling a long distance, those who are travelling shorter distances will always try to make sure that you are not in the way of the doors! Before leaving the train, you have to do some planning again. Usually I try to start my maneuvering about one or two stations before my station. First you have to try to find out at what side to go off, because that can differ from station to station. You just ask someone. Then you are telling people that you are leaving the train at that station, and some way they will manage to move just enough that you can squeeze trough and pass them. My experience has taught me that I don’t want to be too close to the door, because the other people will expect you to leave the train even before it has completely stopped! If you just make sure that there are two or three people between you and the door, then you are fine. These folks will probably also leave the train at the same station and some people behind will do the same. So you are basically being pushed out of the train! Just make sure that you do a quick jump exactly when you leave the train, as you cannot be sure that it has completely stopped! Trying to walk out of the train like we do in Norway can very easily leading to you falling when you hit the platform.

Only once it has happened to me that I was the only person who would leave that wagon at a specific station. I just knew that I had to manage to leave the train before the mob at the platform would enter. Otherwise I would have been squeezed back into the wagon. So what to do? Simply, you just take a small jump… You will end up in the crowd outside, and the number of people there will make sure that you will not fall. Does it sound stupid? Maybe, but it works! I have proved it. And I really don’t think that the people outside got injured.

So would I recommend people to take the local train in Mumbai? Well, it is surely the quickest way to get from north to south or the other way. On Saturday it took me less than 40 minutes from Vikhroli to Central Mumbai. With car it would have taken at least one hour, more probably one and a half I think. So if you are not afraid of standing close to other people, and not having it to comfortably while travelling, than I see absolutely no problem with it. And it is also an interesting way to see Mumbai also. And there are separate wagons for girls/women, which I think I would recommend using if applicable for you.

When you travel with the local train in Mumbai it is a huge advantage to have a map of all the stations. It is not like in Oslo or London, where it is printed at the roof, and you cannot be sure that there will be any voice that tells what station is the next. Sometime there is, but most often not, so you have to find out. A train map is then very handy. After a couple of train rides you will know about what stations are close to your station, so you will manage without this map.

Some of you have maybe heard stories or seen pictures of people standing in the door of trains in India. This is something that can indicate that the actual train is overfull, but I have also realized one other thing. It seems like the places at the door openings are actually most popular! One reason for this might be that it can be quite warm inside the train and if you are actually standing in the opening you do get some fresh air! So at every station you will see some people, mostly young boys who jumps of the train and at the last minute they jump back again. That way they will make sure that they will always keep their place in the opening! Smart or what?

Talk to you soon!

Karsten

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6 thoughts on “Taking trains in India

  1. it just made me smile imagining a big viking man amongst the crowd of mumbai locals!:)congrats,it is one of toughest job i did in mumbai.

    Reply
      • you are welcome.haha..you are damn right.while i was in Norway as an Indian,initially when i got too much comfort in the train,got bored at the super calm cold quiet like hell and sometimes drunk people during the weekends, i used to say to myself..wtf,,and by the end of the year i said to myself fy faen!:).that was expensive ride for 30 kms,but honestly,i do miss taking the train that leaves every hour from platform number 10 of Oslo station towards Moss and get down at Ås.

  2. Funny – I had the same reaction as Amit: a big smile!
    I moved back to Denmark last year after 8 months in China, and there’s just something about riding a train in Asia. At first, it’s quite the culture shock, but once you get used to (for instance) Chinese traffic rules, the politics of queues, etc., you hardly notice it. Takes some practice, though.
    Anyways, your post made me miss the adventure it can be to take trains in China – especially for me (Danish, blonde, taller than most of the Chinese population).

    Reply
  3. Christine,so true. for me they somehow became a part of my life,and without those happening i have a empty feeling now.it is the nicest thing to do when we can do it local way,feel like the way locals feel and live the way they do,and wen it happens spontaneously,we are so screwed between the cultures!:)
    yesterday i was taking a local train in my india and the ticket checker scared the hell out of me when i got down at a wrong station.i miss the smiles in their face when they come say ‘hej’ very sweetly:)

    Reply

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